Cancellations hurt but big season hoped for

Tennis Otago is hoping for a bumper summer despite the pandemic-forced cancellation of its marquee events.

The Otago Indoor Open (September 17-19) was set to be as big as ever before it was called off in the shadow of lockdown, and the Otago Junior Spring Open (October 2-3) will take a year off due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Cancelling the indoor open was particularly wrenching as it was shaping to be a boomer of a tournament after last year’s one was reduced in size.

‘‘We were really looking forward to doing a full-scale tournament and we’d done lots of planning around it,’’ Tennis Otago business manager George McLenaghen said.

‘‘It’s a bit of a letdown but Covid scarpered it. It would have been tricky trying to reschedule it as that’s the only time of the year that it really works.’’

The Dunedin senior interclub season will start on October 9, and the junior competition on October 30.

Registrations were open until this Friday but McLenaghen expected six mixed teams (generally four men, two women) in division one.

The other significant date is November 21, when the Otago community will pitch in to help the Love Tennis national campaign.

Tennis New Zealand used to promote it over different weekends around the country but now everything happens on the same day.

‘‘It’s an open day for clubs to sort of show off what they’ve got and what they can offer to the general public,’’ McLenaghen said.

‘‘They’re trying to bring in people who want to check out their local club and give tennis a try.’’

Perhaps, among the newcomers will be youngsters eager to follow in the footsteps of US Open stars Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez.

The teenagers combined for a stunning grand slam final, won by Raducanu, and McLenaghen said Tennis Otago would be delighted if it inspired girls to pick up a racquet.

‘‘Women’s tennis down here is not in great shape so it’s something we are really looking at. We definitely plan some focus on why our female numbers aren’t as good as they can be.

‘‘It could be a chance to piggyback off that boom in women’s tennis at the top level.’’

Tennis players in the South will at least have some improved facilities on which to play.

The first stage of the redevelopment of the Logan Park courts, now known as the Stevenson Tennis Centre, was opened in May. Ten of the 26 courts at the site have been upgraded.

‘‘They look really nice. There are a few more that need to be done so it’s sort of a two-stage development,’’ McLenaghen said.

‘‘Stage two incorporates the pavilion. We’d like to see some movement on it but it’s a bit of a long process and obviously relies on a fair bit of funding.’’

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